EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Sailor Abby Sunderland's Trip Was Even More Dangerous Than Has Been Revealed, HollywoodLife Has Learned.

Wed, June 16, 2010 6:03pm EDT by 5 Comments

HOLLYWOODLIFE.COM EXCLUSIVE: Abby Sunderland Forced To Go On Dangerous Boat Trip Or Lose Sponsor!

HollywoodLife.com has learned that 16-year-old sailor Abby Sunderland was forced to leave her home port of Marina del Rey, Calif., on Jan. 23 even though it would mean she’d be heading into the most dangerous time to sail in the Southern Hemisphere’s Indian Ocean, or else she would have lost a major sponsor. “There was a time crunch. She had to leave by Jan. 31,” reveals Ted Caloroso, the cinematographer who was working with the Sunderland family in their quest to sell a reality show.

Caloroso claims that there were problems with Abby’s boat that required her to stop for repairs in Cabo San Lucas from Feb. 2 to 6, and that it was in Cabo San Lucas that he became concerned that Abby’s father,Laurence, was “cutting corners” in dangerous ways.

“He didn’t seem to have properly estimated how much fuel she would need and he was buying extra fuel and putting it in paint drums and putting them around the boat. I told him that wasn’t safe and convinced him to get proper fuel containers,” says Caloroso.

Caloroso also says that it was because of safety issues like this that he decided to pull out of the Adventures in Sunderland reality show project that he had been working on. He also tells HollywoodLife.com that he felt that Abby’s solo sail trip was more dangerous than her older brother Zac’s, because it was non-stop (Zac’s wasn’t) and she had to go around Cape Horn on the southernmost tip of South America — known as “The Sailors Graveyard” — whereas Zac went through the Panama Canal.

“Her father Laurence wanted her to go around all five capes. I really began to fear she might die,” Caloroso told HollywoodLife.com.

Coloroso’s safety concerns convinced the highly respected TV production company, Reveille, to whom he had brought the project, to pull out as well. A source close to Reveille confirmed that they were working on the project and had received network interest for the show, but backed out of the project once they were informed by Caloroso that Abby’s trip might be unsafe.

Abby’s father Laurence claimed that he cut ties with Caloroso’s company, Magnetic Entertainment, because “they were assuming Abigail was going to die out there. They were relying on her dying, and so we cut ties.”

Caloroso is apoplectic about this claim: “It’s a lie!”

Now, Abby’s mother Marianna, has posted on Abby’s blog, “There is no reality TV show or documentary in the works and we will not be pursuing one.” However, Ted Caloroso confirmed to us that Abby had video cameras on board to do testimonials. She did do some on her voyage from Cabo San Lucas to Cape Horn and they probably still exist. Videos done after she left Cape Town, South Africa, were left on board her boat, Wild Eyes, which she abandoned.

Furthermore, we’ve learned that the Sunderland parents actively pursued movie and book deals for their son Zac, after he returned successfully from his trip. “I made intros for Laurence in Hollywood, and yes there was interest in Zac’s story from major movie producers and a top literary agent,” says a source. “But, we parted ways.”

Zac is represented by highly respected literary agent David Kuhn, in New York City, HollywoodLife.com has confirmed.

So why did both teens embark on such ambitious missions? “I feel like the kids don’t get much exposure to the outside world,” says a source who has spent a lot of time with the Sunderland family. “The family is not very well-off financially and the kids are home-schooled and stuck in the house with five younger siblings, so any opportunity to get out for a long period of time is appealing. And they have an avid interest in sailing. They’ve lived on boats and loved it.”

But was that a good enough reason for Abby to embark on a “nonstop” solo sailing trip around the globe at a time of year when she would face a higher likelihood of dangerous storms in the South Indian Ocean, then at another time of the year?

NY1 news channels Chief Meteorologist John Devitt confirmed that Abby “was rolling the dice,” by sailing in the Indian Ocean at that time.

“It was a risky decision — at the very edge of the envelope to do that because of weather concerns — but a calculated risk,” agrees George Day, owner and publisher of Blue Water Sailing magazine.

Here’s the key question once again: Was Laurence Sunderland willing to take a calculated risk on his daughter’s life in order to get a reality show, a potential movie or book deal, or any other financial gain?

He denied it to us, but we aren’t so sure.

—Bonnie Fuller

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